“Are you excited!?” This question has been ringing in my ears for almost the whole semester now, whenever it comes up in conversation that I’ll be leaving to study abroad in Austria this January. Usually, I respond with a toothy grin and an “I seriously cannot wait.” And it’s true, I am excited. I can barely wait. Between the Austria prep meetings I’ve been attending throughout the semester, buying my plane ticket to Dublin (where I’ll be spending a few days before heading to Gaming), and getting packing tips from my friends who have already experienced the wonderful blessing that is the Franciscan Austria Program, I feel like I haven’t stopped thinking about what these coming months will be like. The excitement is definitely there. But it wasn’t until falling back into the easy tempo of life at home after the stress of finals that it occurred to me that I hadn’t really let the reality of this impending adventure sink in. For the first time I really had the space and time to think about it, and let it become real in my head and my heart. In only fourteen short days, I’ll be in another country. Another culture, another living history. What will that possibly be like? I’ve never actually left the country before, so in a way the only kind of excitement I can have is that kind of fuzzy excitement mixed with nervousness that naturally comes before doing something new and unknown. I can’t even begin to try and think about what it will really feel like to be in the places where the saints have lived and walked, where the things I’ve learned about in history books actually happened. What is Austria really going to be? What is this semester really going to mean for me, Corinne Cohagan, junior Theology and Catechetics student at Franciscan University?
St. Augustine says something beautiful, that “the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” As a girl who has never been more than a six hour radius outside of Maryland, I can attest to the fact that I’m very familiar with my page. I’ve read it over and over again, felt the comfort of being home and near to the places and people I’ve always known and loved. Traveling through Europe will mean new pages; lots of new pages that I’ve never seen before. It’s a little scary, since I’m so comfortable with this page of my life here. Since I know its words practically by heart now, and I’ve heard God speak to me through them. As excited as I am, am I ready to jump out into this unknown?
One thing that I’ve learned most beautifully from my experience this far at Franciscan is that God’s plan for us is grander that we could ever anticipate, and that He never ceases to speak to us, wherever we are. God has continued to meet me on this page, the home of my heart, for my entire life. Transferring to Franciscan last year was my first real turning of the page, as St. Augustine would probably agree, and I felt God meet me in a new and profound way – because I had taken the jump and opened myself up to hear the new words written in this new place. What will my experiences, travels, encounters with others and the Lord write on these new pages? What will it feel like to read those words? This is what I am preparing myself for as I start to really embrace the fact that the little town of Gaming, Austria will be my new home for a while.
If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be preparing to leave the country to study for four months, I would have most likely said you were crazy. Today though, I’m excited, I’m nervous, but I think I’m ready. I’m packing my bags, but even more importantly I’m preparing my heart. This is going to be one crazy and wonderful semester. More than a new page, a new chapter. I can’t wait to share it with you.
All of my travels so far have been enlightening, teaching me things about the world and myself, both of which I am so grateful for. And as much as what I’ve experienced so far has exceeded my expectations, I did set off on this trip to Austria prepared for adventure. I was kind of ready for it, or at least ready for the unknown that it was to be. But it’s what I wasn’t expecting, the hidden treasures of life in the Kartause, that have turned out to be some of the greatest gifts so far. That’s what I want to share with you today: the unexpected gifts that I have received already from the Franciscan Austria Program. And hopefully in so doing, I’ll be able to give you a little taste of what Austria’s like for me.